Contrary to the right to education, the Education for All goals, and years of civil society campaigning — including that of RESULTS volunteers — to abolish school fees, the practice and acceptance of charging fees for primary school has crept back into the global education landscape. This trend has largely been driven by corporate providers, with some governments and donors now diverting funds towards fee-charging private schools rather than to quality improvements of free, public education systems.
In this context, the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) and its members, including RESULTS, are calling on governments to effectively and responsibly take up their roles as the primary duty-bearers in education. This week at the GCE World Assembly, a global event that saw the gathering of 190 education advocates from 91 countries gather in Johannesburg, the GCE movement passed a motion demanding governments to protect education from for-profit private companies, cease the channeling of public funds to private entities, and regulate private sector involvement in education.
The motion comes after mounting evidence that private schools, including those advertising themselves as low-fee and targeting the poor, are not reaching children of low-income families, not reaching out-of-school children, and, in many cases, not providing quality education — thereby not contributing to the global progress needed to achieve universal, quality education for all. Such evidence has been gathered and revealed by numerous efforts like the Privatisation in Education Research Initiative, various UN Committee review processes, actions taken at the World Human Rights Forum, and the most recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education.
The GCE World Assembly was also joined by Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education Dr. Kishore Singh.
In response to the expansion of fee-charging private schools, the GCE movement calls on governments to not rely on private providers to fulfill education obligations of the State:
GCE World Assembly Motion:
The Role of the State Regarding the Role of Private Actors and Providers
GCE further resolves and calls on States to take the following measures:
- States must recognize that education is a universal human right and a public good, and that States have the primary duty to ensure the right to education.
- States must uphold their responsibility of ensuring free quality education from early childhood education to at least completion of secondary level, including basic adult education, and work towards providing free education beyond secondary, recognizing the obligation contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights for the “progressive introduction” of free education at all levels.
- All states must have a long‐term vision for providing and financing education and lifelong learning for all and meeting the post‐2015 education goals, with the State being in a leadership position in delivering this. Responsibility for the provision and financing of education should not be transferred to other actors.
- States must ensure that education, from early childhood education to secondary education and beyond, is provided for the benefit of learners and society at large, not for the profit of private companies, individuals, and other actors.
- States should not use government funds to subsidize for‐profit education, whether through grants, vouchers, or other means.
- States must ensure that private actors providing education services are accountable. Any role for private actors in the education sector must be clearly defined in the national education sector plan or strategy, and the responsibilities and requirements for private providers must be fully set out in legal, regulatory frameworks.
- States have the obligation to regulate and monitor private sector provision. All schools, including private schools, must adhere to minimum education norms and standards for school infrastructure, teacher qualifications and decent working conditions, curriculum and teaching and learning materials and other norms related to quality, equity, and non-discrimination, including child safety and the human rights of children and young people.
- The State must ensure that it has the full staffing and resource capacity to adequately monitor and regulate private providers.
- Regulation of private providers should encompass regulation to ensure that private provision does not create or entrench existing social and economic inequalities.
The GCE World Assembly was preceded by a Public Forum on the Right to Education and followed by a two-day Civil Society Education Fund Global Learning Event.